Terminal Sound System: Compressor

Terminal Sound System's arresting Compressor often sounds as if Skye Klein's drum'n'bass files got virally infected on their way to the pressing plant, or got dropped into a chemical bath by accident. The Australian sound scientist (also one-time member of doom-metal band Halo) subverts the stereotypical, straight-ahead relentless of the drum'n'bass genre by shattering it into fragments and then re-assembling it in novel, cubistic manner. Klein's approach imaginatively reinvigorates the genre, even though its signifiers aren't banished so much as reconfigured within a newly experimental context; a threatening bass swarm surfaces every now and then, for instance, a firm reminder of the music's origins, and, like much of drum'n'bass, Compressor's dystopic material often oozes menace (“Ghost Summer” writhes like a dying rhino).

The high-velocity “Gridlike” jumpstarts the disc pulsatingly, with the trademark swarm hovering in the background and poised to detonate, but trickster Klein subverts the movement with abrupt interjections that subtly derail the charge. Downward bass throbs and funk beats are infected in similar manner in “Clip Incident,” the tune's momentum repeatedly slowed until it's brought to a standstill, only to rise from a bed of crackling cinders. Breakdowns often occur, with the most unusual the snare hits that arrest the flow of “Black Note.” The track alternates between the regulated five-note motif and explosive splashes and the occasional croak of a bass clarinet that can't help but recall Bennie Maupin. Drums form the nucleus of many tracks (“722,” “Ghost Summer”), an emphasis that makes Compressor suggest Four Tet at his most adventurous. The music also constantly surprises. When a disruption occurs halfway through “722,” for example, one anticipates an extended workout but the blast—repeatedly inserted—lasts but seconds.

Liner notes clarify that Compressor was “composed programmed performed edited rinsed resampled mixed pondered demixed reconstructed by S Klein,” and the list isn't far wrong in alluding to the radical upending at work. Inhabiting an interzone between drum'n'bass and open-ended experimentalism, Compressor resembles what the spawn of Four Tet, Third Eye Foundation, and On the Corner might sound like.

May 2007